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Whale tales by Paul Chai

Follow Paul's epic journey as he travels along the NSW coastline this whale migration season.

The Light Stuff

Posted by: Paul Chai | |
Lighthouse Cottage on the North Coast

The rock pools around Seal Rocks manage to steal the whale's limelight, for a while at least.

If you fancy a spot of whale watching from your kitchen window with a hot mug of coffee then Sugarloaf Point Lighthouse is the spot. Situated in Myall Lakes National Park the old residences of the area’s lighthouse keepers are now top-notch accommodation perched on the side of a hill overlooking Lighthouse Beach, ideal for a morning run if you don’t mind dodging dingoes (yes, really).

On the way north, we have picked up a brochure detailing the marine life of the area from the Ocean and Coastal Care Initiative and our eldest wants to use it as a wildlife checklist. Whales are forgotten - despite a humpback fin slapping just the other side of the lighthouse - and we head to the rock pools below, though sadly seals no longer lounge on the rocks. 

But wildlife is still rife and Dash enthusiastically ticks off barnacles, sponges, sea stars, crabs and black nerites (nope, me neither!), but the best find is an octopus curling its tentacle out from under a rock to feel about for prey. He even has to draw a few things not on the list as we see dolphins, schools of fish, a scorpion and a low-flying military aircraft, which scares us half to death.

Muddy waters

The kids are reluctantly dragged away from the rock pools for a lunchtime trek along the Treachery Headland Walk, a favourite whale-watching spot of local ranger Rachel who is our guide. The track is muddy but when we arrive at the windswept headland, with views back to our accommodation, we’re just in time to see a couple of spouts in the distance. Rachel thinks the whales are on track for a close cruise past so we wait and corral our two kids so the headland does not live up to its name. Sure enough the pair of humpbacks - a mother and a calf about a year old - come to within a few hundred metres. I can see why Rachel likes this spot, an amazing viewing platform whether you watch the whales or the surfers on Treachery Beach.

Night light

After dinner we grab a couple of chocolate bars and head up to sit under the lighthouse; the beacon shining in several directions like the spokes on a giant luminous wheel. We are staying here almost exactly 20 years after the famous whale rescue that took place on Lighthouse beach, and when we return to the cottage we watch the DVD of the rescue. On the 14th of July 49 false killer whales stranded themselves on and around Lighthouse Beach, 37 were successfully returned to sea making it the most successful whale rescue in Australian history. Much of this is lost on our eldest who is simply keen to secure a return to the rock pools in the morning so he can fill in the gaps of his marine checklist.

Whale Spotting in Port Stephens

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  • NSW National Parks & Wildlife Service
  • NSW